Board of Land Appointed in Late 1937 in Fannin County
Bonham Daily Favorite, June 21, 1992
In the aftermath of San Jacinto, Texas, the Republic had little to offer newly arrived settlers or those weighing the merits of immigration to the new country. The treasury was almost non-existent, there was little opportunity for trade with neighboring countries, and no extensive farming operations were in evidence. But Texas did have one thing, land, and lots of it. Heavily timbered regions of the east, and the rich dark belt of the north centra! plains promised unlimited opportunities.
When the news of Santa Anna*s defeat reached the United States, thousands of Americans began to head west. By the end of 1836 nearly 5,000 immigrants had entered Texas over just one ferry on the Sabine River. And the lure was land. Texas* generous land policies set forth in the Constitution of 1836 was vieved as a god-send to the yeoman farmer toiling lands that were beginning to show the damage of nearly two hundred years of soil depletion.
The General Land Office of Texas, established in the 1836 Constitution, was designed to administer the lands of the Lone Star Republic. The office opened in 1837 under Commissioner John Petit Borden. In addition, Iocal Boards of Land Commissioners were created for the original counties of the Republic. The Fannin County Board of Land Commissioners was appointed in late 1837 and sat in session for the first time on February 1, 1838 at the "Fannin County Courts House," the official courthouse then being Jacob Blacks cabin near Red River.
The first board consisted of Bailey Inglish, President, Joseph Murphey and Samuel McFarIand, Associate Commissioners, and J.S. Baker, Clerk. Interestingly, the first official business recorded in the annals of Fannin County is a bond for $20,000, posted to President Sam Houston, for Inglish to serve as President of the Board. This transaction was also dated February 1, 1838.
The Board's responsibility was to hear applicants for the land grants or "headrights" as they were often called, examine the witnesses presented by the applicant, in support of his petition, and rule on the validity of the claim.
Applicants had to swear to their date of immigration to Texas which was contoborated by two witnesses and take the following oath: I do solemnly swear that I, __________, was a resident citizen, of the Republic at the date of the Declaration of Independence; that I did not leave the country during the campaign of 1836 to avoid participation in the war; that I did not assist or aid the enemy; and that I have not previously received a title to my quantum of land, and that I conceive myself justly entitled, under the Constitution and laws, to the quantity of land for which I now apply.
This oath was taken only by those applicants who were claiming First Class Headrights. Later applicants were not required to take the same oath.
As an adjunct to the regional boards of commissioners, a traveling board was also appointed by the government. This traveling board was to periodically visit the regional boards, examine the grants authorized to that date and rule on the validity of the claims.
The board appointed to investigate claims "east of the Brassos River"(sic) made their first investigation in Fannin County on March 13, 1841. Of the 94 first class headrights issued, 14 were adjudged to be fradulent and were rejected.
It appears from the records that some of these claims were rejected because the claimants were unable to prove their residency in Texas before the Declaration of Independence. The individuals were instead awarded second class certificates.
Three of these rejected claims are of particular interest. At the August 2, 1838 meeting of the Fannin County Board, three men, Holland Coffee, Elijah Cowan, and Daniel R. Jackson all made application for first class certificates and served as witnesses for each other's claim. The three were partners in an Indian Trading Post on Red River. Each swore that on the day of the Declaration of Independence "he was living at the mouth of Cash Creek and believing that to be in the Republic of Texas and west of 100 degrees of longitude from Greenwich." Note: Cash Creek is in present day Cotton County, Oklahoma.
The land grant certificates issued by these boards were not for particular areas of land but were instead designed to allow the recipient to claim land anywhere in the Republic.
Fannin County Museum of History
One Main Street, Bonham, Texas